SEARCH FOR BEHEADED WWII U.S. MARINES ON KWAJALEIN, MARSHALL ISLANDS

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (March 24, 2000 – Marshall Islands Journal)—Were you on Kwajalein in World War II? Do you know someone who was?

Then there are U.S. military officials who’d like to talk to you.

Col. David J. Pagano and Major Howard Lim were here last week looking for information that would lead them to the burial location of nine American Marines who were beheaded by Japanese soldiers on Kwajalein.

The nine Marines were part of a raider group that was sent into Butaritari Island (Makin) in Kiribati in 1942 to destroy the Japanese installation and divert Japanese attention and reinforcements. The raider mission, however, was badly handled, with about 20 Marines killed on Makin and nine left behind when the raider group left after two days of intermittent fighting. According to military history of the raid, the withdrawal of the raiders was so disorganized that it wasn’t until three years later that it was determined that nine of the missing raiders had been left alive on the island.

They were subsequently taken by the Japanese to Kwajalein.

Pagano and Lim both work for the Army’s Central Identification Laboratory in Honolulu, which works to locate, excavate and then identify remains of missing soldiers from locations around the world.

Just this past December, the mass burial site of the 20 Marines killed in the Butaritari raid was located, and the bones are now being identified. Local Kiribati residents showed the military group where to dig to find the remains of the soldiers, said Lim, who was in the group in Kiribati last year.

They are hoping that Marshall Islanders can help them to locate the gravesite for the nine Marines beheaded on Kwajalein Atoll. They’ve asked that anyone having information about their burial location contact them through Col. Beal at USAKA or the U.S. Embassy in Majuro.

Pagano said that they have been told that now deceased Marshall Islander Lejjena Lokot was apparently a witness to the beheading of the nine Marines. But to date they haven’t located any more specific information about the whereabouts of the remains at Kwajalein.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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